Before signing with the Vikings on Tuesday, defensive lineman Datone Jones sat inside Winter Park watching tape of his new teammates alongside Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson, his new coaches.
What Jones saw from Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and others amounted to resurrected careers, which Jones now seeks after the Packers let him walk out of Green Bay four years after making him the 26th overall pick.
“They showed me the video, they showed me exactly what was asked of their guys to do,” Jones said Tuesday afternoon. “I was like, I feel like I can come in here and complete those tasks. I feel comfortable in whatever role they want me to play.”
Jones, 26, wants to reach his “full potential” with the Vikings, joining an already strong defensive line. He played multiple positions for the Packers, including outside linebacker, end and tackle. However, the flexibility didn’t lead to immediate improvement and, a year ago, Green Bay declined a fifth-year option on his rookie contract to make him a free agent this offseason.
He signed a one-year deal with the Vikings worth a reported $3.75 million.
“I got a chance to actually prove myself,” Jones said. “I feel like I have a coach that’s going to allow me to prove myself here in Minnesota to continue to get my career off the ground.”
Last season, Jones dropped weight in a move to outside linebacker, but a career-high four starts led to only 22 tackles, one sack and two pass deflections. Jones is listed at 6-4, 285 pounds, and said he’ll bulk up for his return to the defensive line.
He compiled nine sacks, seven pass deflections and an interception in four seasons with the Packers.
“From what they showed me, [Andre Patterson] is a technician,” Jones said of his new defensive line coach. “He has that knack for touching players and helping those players develop.”
The Vikings list Jones at end, but he’ll likely be asked to help at defensive tackle as Sharrif Floyd continues to rehab a knee injury that caused him to miss 15 games and Brian Robison (34 in April) and Tom Johnson (33 in August) approach the twilight of their careers.
Jones already has a feel for some of his new co-workers after years of group text messages with former UCLA teammates Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. The two Vikings linebackers gave Jones a preview before he arrived in Minnesota on Monday night.
“We’re nonstop texting every day and talking every day,” Jones said. “Right before I came out on the visit, they got word. Instantly they were like, ‘Man, you’re going to really love Coach Patterson, you’re going to really love the culture.’ ”
He’ll try to prove himself twice next season against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whom Jones said became a brother of his during four seasons together. He’ll have to do so by hitting Rodgers after years of not being allowed to touch the quarterback during practices.
“Nothing like getting to play against one of the best quarterbacks ever,” Jones said. “Aaron knows. He knows I’m coming hungry.”
Running back Eddie Lacy, who visited the Vikings last weekend, signed with the Seahawks on Tuesday. So the Vikings turned attention to ex-Raiders running back Latavius Murray during a free agent visit starting Tuesday, according to ESPN. The 27-year-old Murray ran for 12 touchdowns last season.
The parade of Packers through Winter Park will reportedly continue as tight end Jared Cook, who had 30 catches for 377 yards and a touchdown in 2016, will visit the Vikings on Wednesday.